Skip to main content

Full text of "Alaskan glacier studies of the National Geographic Society in the Yakutat Bay, Prince William Sound and lower Copper River regions"

214                                ALASKAN GLACIER STUDIES
is rarely the case that one is seen in the broad outer part of the bay, and so few escape to the ocean that they are not considered a menace to navigation. A broad and constant stream of icebergs passes out of Disenchantment Bay, hugging the west shore, though broadening somewhat in the outer portion; but beyond the Kwik River few are ever seen, and they are normally rare in the central and eastern parts of the bay. Practically the entire mass of ice discharged by the three tidal glaciers is melted either in the waters of the inlet, or by stranding on the west shore north of the Kwik River. This is very different from the condition at Columbia Glacier where the waters of the inlet are not heavily burdened with icebergs, for, in spite of the great amount of ice discharged from the glacier, a few of the bergs are carried out of the fiord into Prince William Sound. In Yakutat Bay some set of conditions prevents the discharge of the icebergs through the broadly-open bay mouth.
The Ice Jam of June, 1910. In June, 1910, the junior author encountered an ice jam in Yakutat Bay which seems to have been caused by a combination of unusual conditions which was not present at the times of our earlier visits. When we sailed into Disenchantment Bay on June 12,1910, we found much heavier ice at the native sealing camp than in previous years, and from that point to Osier Island the boat was forced through the ice pack with the greatest difficulty. There was much less clear water between the sealing camp and Calahonda valley than usual, and from the south end of Haenke Island to Osier Island there was a solid jam of icebergs without any open lanes whatever. Near shore, as well as out in the bay, the conditions were the same, and only by pushing the bergs aside with boat hooks and oars were we able to keep the bow and propeller sufficiently clear so that the engine could keep the boat progressing. There was an enormous and unusual proportion of bergs so large that they could not be pushed aside, and the danger of their overturning and swamping the boat kept us constantly on the alert. The tidal currents also added to the difficulty by drifting towering icebergs down upon the boat when it was temporarily at a standstill. It took us from 5 in the afternoon to 10.80 at night to travel the last part of the way, a distance which the boat ordinarily would make in less than an hour. The next day we could see the ice jam clearly and found Disenchantment Bay and Russell Fiord tightly packed with icebergs (PL XC) from the sealing camp to Marble Point, an area of between 40 and 45 square miles. This is exclusive of a great number of icebergs in outer Yakutat Bay, the west side of which is commonly filled with icebergs, as already stated. The east side also had many more bergs than is common, as is stated later, and there were more than usual in Nunatak Fiord and the south part of Russell Fiord. Between the sealing camp and Marble Point the fiord was absolutely filled with ice, a condition which we have never before observed.
On the evening of June 18th there seemed to be a narrow strip of clear water on the north side of Russell Fiord southeast of the delta of Variegated Glacier; but on the 14th, when we tried to cross to this from Osier Island the ice jam was still so compact that the launch was unable to make headway against it. We struggled for six hours (from six in the morning to noon), and travelled less than a half mile. The smaller ice fragments had frozen together the night before, some of the conglomerate cakes being strong enough to bear the weight of a man, and it was necessary to break these apart with an oar or axe before the boat could penetrate through them. There were hundreds of very large bergs where in previous years we had commonly seen a dozen or less, and between them was such a solid pack of smaller fragments that no water was visible in the fiord. It was